SEAVIEW — Marty Bennett has been building things by hand all his life. What began with whittling wood as a boy would eventually grow into welding colossal vessels.
“I was blessed with the ability to do it. My grandpa and dad could do anything they wanted,” Bennett said standing with a torch in hand, “I’m just trying to expand on what I was blessed with.” For nearly the past 30 years, Bennett has been building custom boats in his Seaview shop.
Bennett has been building boats since 1987, but his skills were honed at a young age. A highly technical skill, he began welding at a young age after graduating from woodworking.
“The first thing I welded was weight lifting bench when I was 11-year-old. That little red buzz box over there is what I welded it with. I taught myself,” he said. His solitary approach nearly cost him his life at one point. “I was welding and painting without a respirator. I was young and stupid and it just about killed me,“ Bennett explained. “In a period of two weeks, I went from having three boats in the shop to down in bed for a year and half. It just about killed me.” As a result, Bennett doesn’t “do anything without a respirator — I don’t even sweep the shop without a respirator on,” he said.
Bennett doesn’t measure his success in the number of boats he’s built, which he estimates as more than 20. Instead he refers to the number that has been brought back for repair: zero.
“Never had to repair one. If you do it right the first time, you don’t have to do it again,” Bennett said, “That’s just the old-fashion way, the way I was raised.” Bennett believes in using the best building materials, and prides himself on going the extra mile to ensure quality. He feels a name can become synonymous with quality if the product is built well with consistency.
“When you buy a Rolls Royce, you don’t ask if it’s a well built car. If you have to ask, then you don’t know. If you look at a tugboat, you don’t wonder if it’s built strong. If you don’t know, then you don’t know boats. And if you look at a Lamborghini and have to wonder if it’s a fast car. If you don’t know, you’re in the wrong market,” Bennett said laughing. But unlike high-end luxury cars, build quality isn’t always apparent with the naked eye when it comes to boats. To see the true build quality, an x-ray is needed to examine the welds.
“On a production boat there will be little black spots, holes where the weld didn’t get 100 percent penetration. With the constant pounding out on the water, that’s where a crack will start. But if it’s 100 percent weld, then it isn’t going to crack,” Bennett said adding that he uses a 5086 alloy because “it’s the best there is for saltwater.” Bennett who is mindful not to weld too much in one spot at one time, “If it gets too hot, it distorts it,” he said adding that a clean weld “looks like dimes laying on their side.” But Bennett is more concerned with thoroughness, taking time use a tiny steel brush to sweep away any debris that could cause impurities between welds, a meticulous approach that production boat builders simply can’t match.
“I don’t cut any corners. I grind down to the other weld then burn uphill. When you burn uphill your burning into virgin metal all the time. It’s 100 percent weld. And that’s Coast Guard certified. Production builders don’t do this because it takes too much time, costs too much money.”
“If you want the best-built boat — shop around — go everywhere and look. And if you find something built better than what I do, come back and tell me how they did it, or buy it,” Bennett summed.
Bennett’s boats have signature “aggressive” appearance.
“The old-fashion boats, the windows just lean forward a little bit, to keep the rain off. So I played around with the designs, made it look more aggressive — like they have an attitude,” Bennett explained, “If you look out on the water you can see 100 boats and they all look they same, but I can pick mine out in about five seconds.” From 8-foot rowboats to 38-foot live-aboards, Bennett builds each according to exact customer preference. For more information, visit www.bennettboats.com or call 360-642-8696.